Individualized Education Program (IEP) Lawyer in NJ
What Is an IEP?
An IEP, or an Individualized Education Program, is a document designed individually for each public school student who receives special education and related services.
The U.S. Department of Education says that an IEP is “the cornerstone of quality education for each child with a disability.” It creates an opportunity for parents, teachers, administrators, and other personnel, as well as students, when appropriate, to work together. Ideally, they discuss the child’s particular needs and what services and accommodations the school will provide to help the child meet educational goals.
5 Steps for Getting an IEP
1. Referral for a Special Education Evaluation
A parent, teacher, or other school personnel must create this referral so that your child can be evaluated to determine whether he or she has a disability. The U.S. Department of Education notes that a request for special education and related services can be done verbally or in writing, but that the school district needs parental consent before evaluating a child. A written referral, once signed and dated, it is submitted directly to the principal, school psychologist, or your child’s teacher.
The evaluation determines if your child has an eligible disability listed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which qualifies them to receive special education services. The assessment measures your child’s performance in areas such as academics, social skills, and emotional behavior, and records any medical diagnoses. If parents disagree with an evaluation, the U.S. Department of Education says that they have the right to take their child for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and ask that the school system pay for this.
3. Determining Eligibility
A team of qualified professionals and the parents review the child’s evaluation results and determine whether the child has a disability as defined by the IDEA. If the team determines that your child is not eligible for services, you may ask for a hearing to challenge this decision.
4. Writing the Individual Education Program
Within 30 days after your child is determined to be eligible for special education and related services, your child’s school will assign a case manager. This is usually a special education teacher or specialist responsible for ensuring that your child’s IEP is implemented correctly. School system professionals and the parents – and the student, when appropriate – form a team to write the child’s IEP.
This document includes information such as:
- Your child’s present level of functioning
- Your child’s abilities and educational needs
- Areas of eligibility for services
- Annual goals and objectives
- Designated Instructional Services, or supplemental services that have been determined to be necessary to assist your child
- Program placement (what percentage of the day, if any, your child will spend in a specialized program outside of the typical classroom)
- Accommodations and level of participation in assessments
- Transition plan for children over 16 who will soon graduate from school
5. The IEP Meeting
At the IEP meeting, the IEP is formally discussed and written. The IEP meeting is scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time and place. All members or representatives of the IEP team attend. The IEP meeting is a chance for parents to discuss any concerns with other members of the team regarding any placement, modifications, accommodations, services, and supports provided to the child. The IEP specifies specific responsibilities for each of the child’s teachers and service providers. Parents receive a written copy.
Parents can agree or disagree with all or part of an IEP. They can sign a partial acceptance and have some services implemented while the others are pending. If the parents and other team members cannot reach an agreement on any part of the IEP, parents or the school can request mediation. Parents also can file a complaint with the state education agency and request a due process hearing, the U.S. Department of Education says.
Who Is Involved in Writing the IEP?
Because an IEP is a collaborative effort among people who best know the child and the services and accommodations the school district can offer, the team writing the IEP typically involves:
- The child’s parents or guardian
- The child’s teachers (general education and special education teacher or specialist)
- A school administrator
- Individuals with knowledge or special expertise about the child. (This may include professionals who assessed the child, as well as service providers such as physical or occupational therapists, adaptive physical education providers, speech-language pathologists, or psychologists.)
- Representatives from transition service agencies for children older than 16
- The child, if over age 8 and participation is appropriate
Reviewing and Revising an IEP
Federal law requires that an IEP be reviewed and revised at least once a year. However, the school or parents can ask to revise the plan more often based on the child’s goals and progress.
Although each child’s IEP varies, every IEP includes certain information for parents and the rest of the team to review and revise as the child grows.
An IEP doesn’t just focus on your child’s disability and any challenges, however. An IEP team also discuss your child’s strengths, parents’ ideas for enhancing their child’s education, and ways for the child to participate with the general curriculum as well as non-academic and extracurricular activities.
An IEP will include information about:
- Your child’s current performance – How is your child currently doing in school? This portion contains results from classroom assignments and tests, individual evaluations, and observations about your child’s progress. It also notes how your child’s disability affects how well he or she can participate in the curriculum, the U.S. Department of Education says.
- Your child’s annual goals – These can be short-term academic objectives, as well as physical, social or behavioral benchmarks, or address other educational needs. These must be specific and measurable.
- Special education and related services – This covers what the school will provide to the child or on the child’s behalf, including any supplementary aids and services, such as a classroom assistant, physical therapy, audiology services, occupational therapy, rehabilitation counseling services, school health and medical services, speech-language pathology, orientation and mobility services, counseling, psychological services, transportation, and assistive technology devices or services. This section also notes any modifications or support that school personnel might need to assist the child, such as training or professional development.
- Participation with children who are not disabled – This explains the extent to which the child will not participate with children who are not disabled in a traditional classroom setting and other school activities. The IDEA requires schools to place children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible, meaning that children with disabilities must be educated alongside children who do not have disabilities. However, if the severity or nature of a child’s disability is such that satisfactory education cannot be achieved in regular classes with the use of supplementary services and aids, the IEP team will discuss placement in a special class where every student receives special education services, in a special school, at home, or in a hospital.
- Participation in statewide and district-wide tests – This portion explains any modifications your child needs in the administration of any standardized tests. It also details why a particular test is not appropriate for the child and how the child will be tested.
- Measures of progress – How will the child’s progress be measured, and how will parents be informed of the child’s progress? Will this be handled through report cards and any supplements, or is there need for additional communication?
- Places and dates – When services will begin, where they will be provided, how often, and for how long.
- Transition services – As your child progresses through high school, an IEP will include information to state what services are needed, if any, to help the child prepare for graduation, as well as any courses needed to reach these goals.
How an IEP Lawyer Can Help
Once you sign off on an IEP, your school district must implement this education plan for your child. Ideally, an IEP is designed through teamwork. However, there are times when schools can fail to provide specialized instruction and other support for children with learning, physical, and behavioral or emotional disabilities. In addition, you may be satisfied with your child’s IEP as written, but you may find that the plan is not being implemented to your satisfaction.
A New Jersey IEP lawyer can help you navigate the process of meeting with your child’s school to create an IEP, as well as advocate for your child’s needs, whether at the meeting, in a mediation, or at a due process hearing.
The Susan Clark Law Group LLC is determined to provide the support system, resources, and legal advice necessary for you to help your child achieve his or her educational potential. Please call us or contact us online today for a free consultation.